Venice, the picturesque city of love and mystery, is becoming sort of a relic. I didn’t want it to be true, but on my second visit, it was pretty hard not to notice. We enjoyed the sleepy, almost dream-like atmosphere, but couldn’t help but notice the lack of locals and the near-takeover of tourists. When you’re traveling to experience not just the buildings, monuments, and history, but also the people and the culture—to really try to be a part of the everyday activity of a place—it’s hard when there’s no one left but people just like you, only staying for a quick visit.
In this sort of museum-like state the city is inching toward, you don’t expect to see very much “new.” But, when you arrive in Venice now via train, across from the station there is a modern, kind of distracting architectural “icon,” the Ponte della Costituzione designed by Santiago Calatrava. Totally controversial, and I won’t bore you with the details, but it was one of those things that, as architects, we sort of loved to hate. State of the bridges aside, once you arrive, you either hop on said bridges and start bopping your luggage up and down stairs (not it! we backpacked this one!), or jump in a water taxi and take the meandering canal route. Our hotel was close by, so we opted for the stroll on foot.
Major hotel brands aren’t really a thing in Venice, and it’s really kind of rare to find a “large” hotel; most of the hotels are small or verge on the bed and breakfast end of the spectrum (and of course there are lots of Airbnb options too). Our little home away from home, the Palazza Odoni, was just right: a clean, snug-tight room with classic venetian decor, breakfast included for the * maybe* 10 rooms of guests, and a lazy pup welcoming us as we came and went. I highly recommend experiencing Venice this way; but—full disclosure—venetian decor is NOT something the Respeckis love, and Nick is definitely convinced all of Venice is probably haunted. Ha!
We didn’t have any real plans or major must-sees in Venice, other than St. Mark’s Basilica and the Piazza San Marco. Conveniently (insert sarcasm here), a large portion of the basilica facade was undergoing restoration work during our visit, which looks lovely in photos as you’ll see below. 🙂 There is a great museum in the basilica that we’d definitely recommend, and as always, if you can catch a service or ceremony, regardless of your faith or religious affiliation, you should. It’s the best way to truly experience a church, basilica, cathedral, mosque, or other place of worship.
We had some great meals in Venice, but we definitely treated ourselves and splurged one night at a small restaurant around the corner from the Rialto called Vinaria. Highly recommend, especially if you’re there during a season appropriate for al fresco dining. There are lots of tucked back restaurants in the streets and alleys of Venice, so it was great to be right off the Grand Canal in the cool, summer evening air, raising our glass to this miraculous floating city, and the fact that we made it before it either sinks or becomes a theme park. Cheers.